My efforts to be more eco-friendly can seem feeble at times.  I forget to take my reusable grocery bags to the store.  I refuse to “let it mellow if it’s yellow.” I still buy the occasional bottle of water, despite a growing collection of reusable water bottles in my kitchen cupboard.  And I’ve been researching, but not actually purchasing, a water saving shower head for months now.

But I’m somehow managing to raise waste-conscious kids.

My four year old daughter and I were in a public restroom this weekend and she was enthralled with the automatic paper towel dispenser.  Her hands had been wiped clean of any hint of moisture, and she quickly flailed her arms in front of the sensor.  A new sheet of paper was spit out of the mechanical holder.

“Stop,” I said.

“Why?” she asked.

“Because you don’t need it,” I explained.  And we left the towel, clean and dry and ready for the next user.

It was a small, seemingly meaningless, encounter.  But as we walked out of the gas station bathroom, I thought, rather smugly, to myself “you’re showing her what it means to be more responsible with our resources.”

That same weekend, my family spent a night in a hotel.  The morning we checked out, my nine year old son helped me do the final sweep of the room.  He lifted up bed skirts and discarded towels to make sure that we weren’t leaving any of our belongings behind.  We’d secured the almost-forgotten toothbrushes and were making our way out the door for the last time when he suddenly darted back into the room.

He shut off all the lights.

“Good thinking,” I affirmed.  “There’s no need to leave lights on when no one is going to be in here.”

And again I thought to myself, “You are kicking butt at this parenting gig.”

No one talked about recycling when I was growing up (except my flower child mother).  We didn’t think about chemicals in our food or alternate fuel sources.  It was rare to hear someone talk about expanding landfills or organic anything.  Going green now often can feel like a monumental task and a completely new way of thinking.  It can be overwhelming.

I want it to be easy for my kids.

Fortunately, they are learning about recycling in school.  They’re being taught about ozone layers and global warming. Their education on conservation of natural resources goes far beyond a talking bear that prevents forest fires.  And they have absolutely no problem with not flushing the toilet.

It’s important to me to encourage that way of thinking at home.  Even in little ways.  I want to assure them that the little ways matter.  Not using more paper towels than you need to helps.  Turning off the lights even when someone else is footing the electric bill is important.  Using the blue recycling bins are an important and easy habit to develop.

I still have a long way to go to decrease my own carbon footprint.

But I’m laying the groundwork to make it easier for the next generation to leave behind baby steps.

TGMR columnist Britt Reints is desperately trying to reconcile being green with being pretty. You can find more of her soul-stirring emotional depth at Miss Britt, her personal blog.